This week sees London come alive to the sound of “oohs” and “ahs”, as the 11th edition of the London Design Festival lights up showrooms, shops and pop-up spaces across the entire city.
The event promises to be the biggest yet, with five parts of the city renaming themselves for the occasion. From west to east, there’s the Chelsea Design Quarter, the Brompton Design District, Fitzrovia Now, the Clerkenwell Design Quarter and the Shoreditch Design Triangle. These monikers seem like unnecessary bits of neighbourhood branding but they also provide good navigation pointers for what has become a busy nine days.
The festival has become increasingly academic over the years, with plenty of workshops, forums and talks spinning off from the more commercial arm. And it’s this that perhaps sets LDF apart from the well-populated international calendar of design fairs. Following its debut last year, the Global Design Forum at the Southbank Centre took place yesterday and Monday, with veteran graphic designer and album cover creator Peter Saville in conversation with music journalist Paul Morley. It also included a panel discussing the state of our cities, chaired by Monocle’s very own Steve Bloomfield.
Last weekend’s graphic design-heavy line up, which saw Jonathan Barnbrook discuss his work for David Bowie, will be followed by days dedicated to manufacturing, sustainability and digital design this weekend. It’s programmes like these that reinforce how London has cemented its position as a world design capital by encouraging minds to meet instead of simply offering exhibition halls for brands to show off new designs.
The international pavilions at Earls Court are especially interesting, including Slovenia, Argentina and Taiwan. Things get even more enticing across town. Designjunction takes place in The Sorting Office on New Oxford Street, with a particular emphasis on lighting this year. Further east, Tent London takes has taken over the Old Truman Brewery. Both these events pay attention to achieving a fine balance between established names and emerging talent. For example, at Designjunction, Danish furniture giant Carl Hansen & Son shares space with growing British brand Another Country. Likewise, Tent London sits next to its sister event, Super Brands London, where international exhibitors such as Ligne Roset aim to grow their UK market.
With design fairs becoming increasingly homogenous the world over, it’s becoming more and more apparent that talent and skill, not just products, set an event apart. The London Design Festival is also the time where studios across the city open their doors for visits.
It’s these opportunities that show off London’s ability to attract the world’s design community, to not only display their wares here, but to also call the city home.
Tom Morris is design editor for Monocle.